Last week, Baseball America ranked Michigan No. 1 for the first time in school history — a first for any Big Ten team.
Such a ranking is obviously a high honor, but it comes with expectations as well. Any time a No. 1 team loses, it’s the kind of upset that receives national attention.
Still, Michigan coach Erik Bakich made it clear that he sees such a response as an overreaction in the case of the Wolverines’ (4-3 overall) 2-1 series loss to UConn (3-3) this weekend.
Bakich cited letting innings get away from the team as Michigan’s chief problem from the weekend. The Wolverines’ bullpen struggled, and their hitters were not as competitive in the box as Bakich would have hoped in the team’s two losses to the Huskies. But Bakich emphasized that these problems are uncharacteristic of his team.
“It’s not like I’m seeing these guys for the first time these past two weeks,” Bakich said. “I’ve learned a lot about the team and their consistency through the entire fall and how they go about training up until this point, so I do think we have a very tough, hard-working and resilient group of kids who had a tough weekend.”
The idea of staying the course pervaded the Wolverines’ post-game message, typifying the team’s belief that this weekend will be remembered as nothing more than a mere blip in an otherwise successful campaign.
“I’ve learned that the team has a high level of believability in themselves and a high level of confidence after opening weekend,” Bakich said. “And hearing them today when we were down 9-1, I didn’t hear a team that was defeated thinking they were out of the fight. I mean the verbiage coming out of the dugout, the way we competed those first four at bats in the ninth — if we had done it every at bat of the weekend, we’d have had a different result.”
Michigan’s current 4-3 record looks unimpressive at first glance, but the Wolverines feel that they have all of the pieces necessary to compete at the level of their current ranking.
“We just have to get it out consistently, we’re too good of a team to have slip ups like this,” Bakich said.
And Bakich has a plan to get this consistency out of his team.
“We need to simulate situations in the games that hurt us this past week,” Bakich said. “Imitate high-leverage situations and just try to create an environment that’s faster than the speed of the game to recalibrate our eyes and what we’re seeing. … I think just the more we can have training reps that are random and chaotic in nature and unexpected and challenging then these situations that arise in the games, we’ll be able to handle them better than we did this weekend.”
Bakich and his coaching staff used that technique a lot last season, and anyone who watched Michigan play in last year’s postseason saw its effectiveness.
Multiple players mentioned before opening weekend that the goal for this season was to get back to Omaha and end the season ranked No. 1. They never mentioned wanting to be No. 1 in February, and while the Wolverines may have just lost their early season No. 1 ranking, the team still believes it can possess that title when it matters most.